June 19: workers, families occupy Akron, Youngstown, and Hawaii
Today in labor history … an Occupy trio: 1934 first sit-down strike, 1937 Women’s Day Massacre and 1953 four-day general strike in Hawaii.
On June 19, 1934, workers conduct a pioneering sit-down strike at General Tire Co. factory in Akron, Ohio. The United Rubber Workers union was founded a year later. The tactic launched a wave of similar efforts in the rubber, auto and other industries over the next several years.
According to author Louis Adamic, rubber workers first used the sit down because they had organized ball teams of union rubber workers, who sat down on the grass or on benches and refused to play until they were provided with an umpire who was a union man. Later a dozen of them remembered this technique when they were dissatisfied with working conditions. The paralysis spread through the plant, and within an hour the dispute was settled.
Women’s Day Massacre
During the “Little Steel” strike, on June 19, 1937, Youngstown police use tear gas on women and children, including at least one infant in his mother’s arms, during a picket line at Republic Steel. Union workers respond to police violence, and police open fire. More union members and supporters join with crowd, which had not retreated. One union organizer later recalled, “When I got there I thought the Great War had started over again. Gas was flying all over the place and shots flying and flares going up and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in my life…” The day was dubbed the Women’s Day Massacre.
General strike for democracy
Today in 1953, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union begins a four-day general strike in sugar, pineapple, and longshore to protest convictions under the anti-communist Smith Act of seven activists, “the Hawai’i Seven.” A federal appeals court later overturned the convictions.